Wickard v. Filburn
317 U.S. 111 (1942)

  • Congress passed the Agricultural Adjustment Act, which gave the Secretary of Agriculture the power to set a quota for wheat production.
    • Under the quota, each wheat grower was given an allotment of wheat they could grow per year.
    • Congress felt that the Interstate Commerce Clause gave them the authority to set quotas.
  • Filburn lived in Ohio and grew wheat and dairy. He grew more than his allotment and was fined. He sued the Secretary of Agriculture.
    • Filburn argued that Congress did not have the power to limit how much wheat he was growing because the Interstate Commerce Clause didn’t apply.
      • Filburn didn’t sell his wheat across State lines.
  • The Trial Court found for Filburn and issued an injunction against collection of the fine. The US appealed.
  • US Supreme Court reversed.
    • The US Supreme Court noted that the Agricultural Adjustment Act extended Federal regulation to production intended for consumption on the farm (Filburn fed the wheat to his cows).
    • However, the Court found that Filburn’s wheat competed with wheat sold in interstate commerce. Therefore it was covered by the Interstate Commerce Clause.
      • The Court reasoned that if Filburn had not used home-grown wheat, he would have had to buy wheat on the open market.
  • Basically, this case said that Congress’s power to regulate commerce was not limited to the supply side of commerce, but that it could regulate demand as well.
    • That means that Congress can use the Interstate Commerce Clause to regulate wholly intrastate, non-commercial activity if such activity, viewed in the aggregate, would have a substantial effect on interstate commerce, even if the individual effects are trivial.
  • From the conservative point of view, this case represents the pinnacle of Congressional intervention into State affairs.